Pic focuses on a messy, and rather tedious, emotional menage a trois between an idealistic young woman, drifter and cop.

Delving once again into the psycho-sexual head games, Jacques Doillon’s latest, “Just Anybody,” focuses on a messy, and rather tedious, emotional menage a trois between an idealistic young woman, drifter and cop. Closer in atmosphere to Doillon’s claustrophobic near-three-hander “Totally Flaky” than his more commercial efforts such as “Ponette,” this latest pic will probably please crix crazy about his free-form, dialogue-heavy, thesp-focused style. However, paying auds outside fests and hardcore arthouses will find little here, beyond the lovingly shot seaside setting, to draw them into the ranks of the faithful.

Middle-class twentysomething Camille (pouty-lipped newcomer Clementine Beaugrand) has decided to make a project out of loving homeless low-life Costa (Doillon-regular Gerald Thomassin), even though he’s “just anybody,” hence title. In fact, Camille doesn’t seem to mind that Costa’s a runt of a guy about whom no one has a kind word to say, not even his own father (Jany Garachana). Even worse, Costa appears to have date-raped Camille (or not, as their versions conflict) just before story proper begins.

Following him back to his hometown, Camille tries to broker a reconciliation between Costa and his ex-g.f., Gwendoline (Gwendoline Godquin), but Gwendoline insists she wants nothing to do with him since he’s not seen their young daughter Kimberley (Noemie Herbet) for three years, or sent any child support.

Local cop Cyril (Guillaume Saurrel), who had a fling himself with Gwendoline and has known Costa since childhood, has the hots for Camille. The attraction is mutual, but even though she reports back everything that’s happening between her and Costa to Cyril, she resists his charms. Meanwhile, Camille offers a nasty estate agent (François Damiens) sex for money, but things go wrong and the guy gets way more grief than he ever bargained for in pic’s homestretch, during which Costa embarks on an inept crime spree.

Bouncing about with near-randomness like atoms repelled and attracted to one another, the characters are more like ciphers or mouthpieces for Doillon’s dialogue than real people. It’s hard to believe that the intensely irritating Camille means anything she says, for instance, or that Cyril’s a real policeman given how much free time he has, but then again it’s hard to care either. Thomassin at least moulds Costa into a richly comic clown with a hint of menace, buoying interest. Pic flags when he’s not onscreen.

Nicely lensed on digital and then transferred to 35mm to impressive effect, Doillon and d.p. Helene Louvart favor long takes and tight close-ups that put the perfs front and center, while snatches of Debussy break up the monotony of the dialogue from time to time. Set and shot in seaside town of Le Crotoy in Northern France, use of a particularly photogenic local beach rep another plus point in a film sorely needing them.

Just Anybody

France-Belgium

Production

A Liaison Cinematographique (France), Artemis Prods. (Belgium) production, in association with CNC, Canalplus. (International sales: Pyramide, Paris.) Produced by Patrick Quinet. Directed, written by Jacques Doillon.

Crew

Camera (color, digital-to-35mm), Helene Louvart; editor, Marie Da Costa; costume designer, Anne Fournier; sound (Dolby Digital, DTS), Christian Monheim, Paul Heymans. (Reviewed at the Berlin Film Festival — Forum), Feb. 8, 2008. Running time: 120 MIN. French dialogue.

With

Clementine Beaugrand, Gerald Thomassin, Guillaume Saurrel, Gwendoline Godquin, Jany Garachana, François Damiens, Noemie Herbet.

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